Frankie V’s Prediction: Can Notre Dame Finally Slay Golliath Tonight?

Notre Dame’s long-anticipated matchup with Clemson this evening lost some of its luster with the absence of star quarterback Trevor Lawrence. However, the Tigers still bring a #1 ranking into Notre Dame Stadium. The Irish have not fared well in these primetime, marque matchups in the past, but if there was ever a time for the Irish to pull the upset, it’s tonight.

This isn’t a must-win for Notre Dame, but it kind of is

Notre Dame can lose this game and still make it to the Playoffs. We’ve known for a while that Notre Dame and Clemson are likely going to play each other twice this season – tonight and in the ACC Championship game. So even if the Irish lose this evening, they’ll get another crack at Clemson in December – assuming they win the rest of their games.

That said, if Notre Dame isn’t able to beat a top 5 while playing at home against that team’s backup quarterback, when will they? And if they lose tonight, how much of a chance will they have a month from now against Trevor Lawrence and Clemson on a neutral field?

From the perspective of wanting to be seen as an elite program again, tonight really is a must-win. The national perception of Notre Dame will be that they simply aren’t in the same tier as the Clemsons and Ohio States of the world if they lose at home to a true freshman quarterback.

Notre Dame’s defense should be able to exploit DJ Uiagalelei better than Boston College

Speaking of that true freshman quarterback, I think Notre Dame will be able to exploit his inexperience much more than Boston College. And that’s not a dig at Boston College necessarily. Yes, Notre Dame’s defense is more talented – and I’ll pit Clark Lea against any defensive coordinator in the country – but from a timing perspective, Notre Dame is better situated than Boston College was.

Last week, the Eagles found out that Trevor Lawrence would not play against them on Thursday night. Practice for the week was over. Game plans were set. I’m sure BC altered their plans a bit at the last minute, but they didn’t have time to build their entire gameplan around not having to worry about Trevor Lawrence.

Clark Lea has known all week long that he doesn’t have to worry about facing Lawrence. Now, Uiagalelei is no slouch either, but he is still just a true freshman making his first start on the road. Expect Lea to try and fool the talented frosh. Brian Kelly said this week that they need to hit the quarterback – and they do – but watch for Lea to try and confuse him at the line just as much by showing blitz and backing off.

Clemson’s rushing offense has struggled

Part of why Notre Dame is set up to stop Uiagalelei is because the Clemson rushing offense has not been the juggernaut it once was. Just like Notre Dame’s ability to hit some chunk plays (more on this later) could determine the outcome for the Irish, Clemson’s ability to run the ball could determine it for the Tigers.

If Clemson and star running back Travis Etienne cannot get their ground game going, the Irish defense could take command of this game. That isn’t as far fetched as it sounds either. Etienne has just two 100+ yard efforts on the season. He had 102 on 17 carries in their season opener against Wake Forest, and he erupted for 149 on 17 carries in their blowout of Miami. Last week, with Lawrence out, he tallied just 82 yards on 20 carries. If he has that kind of game today, Notre Dame is celebrating into the morning.

Notre Dame’s lack of chunk plays could doom Irish

The big question for Notre Dame tonight isn’t on its defense. Everyone expects the Irish defense to come to play and to at the least hold Clemson in check enough to give the Irish a chance. The offense, on the other hand, is the big question. Can Notre Dame score enough points to pull off the upset is the question no one has an answer for.

I would feel so much better about Notre Dame’s chances IF Kevin Austin and Braden Lenzy were suiting up for the Irish this evening. Without them, Notre Dame has lacked explosion in its passing game other than a quick outburst from Bennett Skowronek against Pitt.

Notre Dame will have to manufacture chunk plays tonight and play off of Clemson’s aggressiveness. We’ve seen Tommy Rees use more motion and misdirection in recent weeks. I expect some of that has been to set up a few plays tonight we’ve never seen. For instance, I fully expect either Avery Davis to attempt a pass or, at the very least, run a fake reverse that looks like it’s being set up for a pass.

Will razzle-dazzle work against Clemson’s defense? Most likely not without flawless execution and excellent play design. Brent Venables is too good of a defensive coordinator for his unit to be fooled too easily. Rees, despite his youth, has been building towards this game, though.

This game will define Ian Book’s Notre Dame career

Fair or not, tonight will likely define Ian Book’s Notre Dame career. He’s been a polarizing figure at Notre Dame. One camp agrees with Brian Kelly that he “just wins.” The other camp says that Book’s limitations have placed a ceiling on this offense and this team for the last two years. Book has an opportunity to silence the latter camp.

Book has had three opportunities in the last two seasons to silence critics but has come up short in each. He struggled against Clemson in the Cotton Bowl in 2018. He was OK against Georgia in Athens last year but couldn’t come up with the game-winning drive when given the opportunity. He had the worst game of his career last October in Ann Arbor.

For the first time, Book gets a chance in one of these marquee games on his home turf. The closest thing to a big game he’s had in Notre Dame Stadium was Stanford in 2018, but that Cardinal team proved not to be very good.

Notre Dame doesn’t need to rush for 200+ to win.

Notre Dame doesn’t have to have gaudy rushing stats as they did against Florida State or Duke to win this game. Brent Venables defense won’t allow for it. They don’t have to to win this game, though. What Notre Dame has to do to win the game tonight is to be efficient in its running game to give the offense a chance.

The most significant difference in the rushing game for tonight versus, say the Georgia game in 2017 or 2019 or even the Cotton Bowl is that Kyren Williams is a much more patient and efficient runner than Josh Adams or Dexter Williams. Kyren is not the same kind of home run threat as either of his predecessors, but at the same time, his rushing style is much more suited for success against a defense like Clemson.

Adams and Dexter Williams were more of single cut and take off type backs, and against a defense like Clemson, there aren’t many gaping holes to exploit. That’s why defenses like Clemson or Georiga have stuffed the Irish rushing game in recent years. Kyren Williams is different, though. He is so good because he turns a two-yard gain for most backs into a four or five-yard gain consistently. Yeah, that’s not sexy for the stat sheet, but against a defense like Clemson, the Irish need to play a little bit of small back to manufacture points. Williams will give them that chance tonight.

Notre Dame needs its star to be stars tonight

For the Irish to win tonight, they need their star players to play like it.

  • Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah needs to bring down Etienne in the backfield a few times.
  • Kyle Hamilton needs to pick off Uiagalelei to get his first INT of the season.
  • Michael Mayer needs to come up with a few tough third-down conversions.
  • Kyren Williams needs to consistently maximize his runs tonight.
  • Notre Dame’s offensive line needs to play to their potential.

The last time Notre Dame had an elite opponent in Notre Dame Stadium was Georgia in 2017, and for as good as Mike McGlinchey was that year – and that night for the most part – he’ll forever be remembered for missing the block that led to the game-sealing strip-sack for Georgia. Notre Dame’s stars can’t have a gaffe like that tonight and expect to win.

Prediction Time

I went back and forth on this one all week but have settled in with some newly found confidence in the Irish. All season long, I felt Clemson would come to Notre Dame, and it would just be more of the same in a big game for Notre Dame. Without Lawrence, though, if not now, when?

I think Notre Dame will run the ball well enough tonight. I think the Irish defense will contain Clemson well enough as well. If both of those happen, it could be a boring game in much the same way the 2017 Notre Dame – Georgia game was. If it’s low scoring like that, Notre Dame has a chance.

Notre Dame 24, Clemson 20

You may also like


      1. I hope BK reminds his team of that history, “spicey”.

        It wouldn’t surprise me for a BK team to beat Clemson only to lose to a team that barely beat the Cuse at home.

        GO IRISH!

        Beat BC!

      2. Hopefully the Irish don’t have a letdown next week. Boston College is not that strong of a team but they will be motivated. I’m a fan of jurkovic and still feel he kind of got screwed over by Kelly so I will be pulling for him to play well and give Kelly a scare. but in the end I think the Irish will prevail rather easily in this game

  1. Jeff,

    I’m warming up the crow for me and “david”! Let’s see if he mans up and joins me at the dinner table. Oh, “david”?

    I’ll be having crow left overs from here to Christmas if ND can at least win one PO game!

    Just like I didn’t want to hear about what ifs from ND fans, I don’t want the haters to come up with excuses about Clemson missing players. That’s a part of the game. Last I checked Ettiene played the whole game. We’ll see what those missing players mean in a possible re-match.


    1. Rob, Save me a piece of that pie for me as well. It was a great game and ND had a few fortunate calls go there way but at the end of the night it’s a long awaited signature win for ND under BK. Got to give Book credit as he came through at the end. Clemson was short-handed and it will be much tougher if we Face them in the ACC Championship Game

      1. Will do, Jeff.

        I’m waiting to hear from our dinner mate, “david.” For someone who hates Trump so much, wouldn’t it be ironic if he, “david,” didn’t also concede he lost, just like the president?!

        Look at that last play, we got away with a major late hit on their QB. Well, that just makes up for the multiple hands to the face by their O linemen against our D linemen all game long. I counted at least four clear ones I saw happen live. There was also a clear facemask not called on them in OT.

        Yes, the re-match, if it happens, will be tough. ND will have to absolutely score TDs and not FGs to keep it close. They will have to be perfect. But they didn’t play perfect tonight and somehow still won!

        GO IRSIH!

        Beat BC!

  2. I guess I won’t be eating crow tonight!

    ND and it’s fans can claim yet another “moral victory”. BK’s teams are undefeated champs of “moral victories”!

    Wait for the “moral victory” losers to pop up here soon.

      1. We can pray, Jeff.

        But I’ll believe it when I see it.

        What I don’t want to to hear is “what if” this or “what if” that. I’m not into “moral victories” either at this point, Jeff. I’m tired of BK claiming them.

        If ND loses they can stew in their own bile knowing they gave this game away by settling for FGs and not TDs.

        But let’s see what happens at the end, Jeff.

        GO IRISH!

  3. That throw and catch on third down right there establishes the difference between a champion like Clemson and a pretender like ND. Book doesnt make that throw if his life depended on it and no ND RB comes down with it even if he did.

    Clemson scored the TD here to tie and then will end up winning by 14-21 at the end if the O struggles like it has.

      1. “Burgy” scores easy on that play!

        That’s now close two FGs instead of TDs=8 less points.
        Another drive started inside the 25 and only three points.
        A Book fumble=7 points.

        Add it up and that’s why ND will lose tonight, friends.

    1. If it’s not Book not making a play, then it’s one of the WRs or RBs.

      Compare that missed TD with the Clemson throw and catch on third down.

      The difference between contenders and pretenders!

  4. Very poor play calling at the end. Five more yards equals three more points.

    IF ND loses this, the 11 points left on the field and off the score board will haunt them all their lives.

    What’s obvious is that ND has gotten little on the O and D perimeters, minus one McKinley catch and one Skworonek third down conversion. Skowronek undid his good play with the cheap shot foul that might have cost ND another TD. ND DBs still can’t cover or turn their heads.

    Sadly, the ND O line has not gotten consistent push. That will mean Book will have to make plays with his arm. That’s no good for us! Book’s limitations as a passer are glaring in the red zone.

    I just hope ND keeps this close to the end and doesn’t get embarrassed. A close loss probably keeps ND in the hunt for the ACC title game. Of course, if you can’t beat Clemson now, with so many injuries and no Lawrence, how do you expect to beat them in the title game?!


    BEAT Clemson!

    1. ND is done for if Clemson decides to pass. There’s no pass rush again tonight and the DBs can’t cover anyone on Clemson.

      Clemson will use the pass to set up Etienne later.

      Clemson scores a TD here and if ND doesn’t match it the rout will be on I fear.

      GO IRISH!

    1. Thanks for the response, Jeff. I fondly recall those days as well.

      As an Irish fan, then, you understand what I said about anti-ND trolls on here. If you’re a loyal son of ND, then you can be as critical as you want. But to be here as a hater to me is just sad.

      I’m not a BK fan either. But I’d sure like to be! My conversion could begin with a big win tonight, Jeff.

      One thing I hope Reese has been keeping in his pocket for this game is actually letting Book keep the ball and go around the end like Daniel Jones of the Giants did. Hopefully if Book had that much green ahead of him he doesn’t trip over his own feet like Jones did. Book needs to at least keep it a few times to slow down the ends crashing down the line.

      GO IRISH!


    2. Killer false start penalty.

      Recall that at the end of the game if this is close. That’s potentially four points left on the field and off the score board!

      1. Another blown red zone opportunity. That’s eight points now off the board.

        Won’t win this game changing TDs for FGs!

  5. Let’s do a little quarterback comparison between Notre Dame and Clemson over the last 10 years. This should help some of you understand why Notre Dame it’s still on the outside looking in on a national championship.
    Clemson. NotreDame
    1. Tahj Boyd. 1. Rees
    2. Deshaun Watson 2. Golson
    3. Kelly Bryant. 3. Zaire
    4. Trev Lawrence. 4. Kizer
    5. DJ Uiagalelei. 5. Wimbush
    6. Book
    7. Clark/Buchner


    1. Well put, Jeff.

      But might I ask: are you an ND fan, Clemson fan, or other?

      Not that it matters to me since your posts are always intelligent. But it would be nice to know for the sake of honesty if you’re a fan or ND hater. That would at least give some context to what you say. Not that it would make what you just said above untrue, of course.

      I will never understand the dementia of non-ND fans coming to an ND site. It would never occur to me to darken the internet portals of another school’s football team, even one we were about to play. I just think that these anti-ND trolls merely prove that no matter whether ND wins or loses they will always have an inferiority complex or perverse obsession with a program that they somehow secretly envy, denials to the contrary notwithstanding.

      GO IRISH!


      1. SFR, I’ve been an Irish fan since the early 70s. Use to watch the televised replays on Sunday morning when Lindsay Nelson was calling the game. I’ll be pulling for the Irish tonight but let me be clear. I’m not a fan of Brian Kelly. I also prefer to call things like I see them. They can let Book play for the Irish another 10 years and they still won’t win a championship. Need to have a top tier Elite QB to win at this level and Book is not the guy. Nothing personal against Book he has had a great career but just don’t see him being enough.

  6. Barring divine intervention, like in the original “David-vs.-Goliath” clash, I sadly don’t think the Irish have much of a chance tonight.

    Until this regime finds a way to get more and better talent, especially at the skill positions, and even more especially at QB, ND will not get close to the elites. Plain and simple.

    I hope I’m wrong, guys. If ND wins, then I’ll be here gladly eating crow! IF ND hopefully wins, then, perhaps, “david/David” will join me at UHND in a crow-eating contest for you guys’ enjoyment.


    1. Well….
      ND is at home, facing a back-up freshman QB in his second ever career start, presumably anxious to redeem a complete trouncing, under a head coach who just signed a 5-year extension that prolongs his record-setting tenure at ND, despite having been depantsed every time the ND brand chauffeured him to a position to win something.

      If ND loses, who then has fowl to digest?

      1. I guess neither since I, too, didn’t pick ND!

        But unlike you perhaps I’d love to put some hot sauce on my crow!

        GO IRISH!

  7. Bad new….looks like Goliath might have a baby brother in the ACC.
    Miami QB could drop balls into a manhole 3 blocks away last night.
    And those guys’ll steal any sign that ain’t bolted down.

  8. 38-13 Clemson. Clemson will shut down Notre Dame’s allegedly elite offensive line and running game leading to the defense being on the field to much and wearing them down late 3rd or early 4th quarter. This will be the first of two blowout losses to Clemson and hopefully the exit of dick with ears Brian Kelly. Enjoy the game today.

    1. Nope….five more years.
      But Kelly’s impact on the game is impressive……Michigan/Harbaugh just won the toss, took the opening KO, and promptly went 3-and-out, -3 yds.
      Honorary member of the Kelly coaching tree ?

  9. I. Well written Frank.
    2. Protect the ball. Book’sForte.
    3. Explode a couple times but overall do a Navy on the clock.
    Even Ukelele can’t hurt us from the bench. Just as against Miami in 88, aim to put some points on the board every possession.
    God Bless Burgy and May the Saints of Ireland bless our endeavors.
    PS to the student body shriek like Banshees on third and fourth down !
    BGC 77 82

    1. Better learn to spell his name….he’ll be around awhile. And unfortunately for ND fans, NFL teams don’t give any extra consideration for drafting kids who won’t require many letters sewn on their jerseys.

      And being an uptight, self proclaimed religious-type, you might want to ease off on the Trumpet racism tropes.
      There’s a new sheriff in town, and that disgusting little detour into hell is coming to a close.

  10. Barry – if you are looking for some real name calling, this is the thread. You’ll find some great ones about the athletes pouring it out on the field. If you’re lucky, you can also get some analysis from those who “don’t even watch” the games.

    Good luck today gentlemen.
    God bless all of you and God bless the USA!

      1. Two more tips, Barmeister:
        1) Seems weird, but do NOT talk football. She totally spaces, and just reaches for her burn book.
        2) Even with Covid, hotels in SB raise their prices on game weekends. But don’t bother….I hear she’ll do it in a car.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button